Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Another Look at George MacDonald

MacDonald in the 1860s

Born 10 December 1824 in Huntly, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Died 18 September 1905 (aged 80) in Ashtead, Surrey, England

George MacDonald was a Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister who pioneered figure fantasy literature in the 19th century. He was a graduate of the University of Aberdeen.

MacDonald's notable works include: Phantastes (1858); David Elginbrod (1863); At the Back of the North Wind(1871); The Princess and the Goblin(1872); and Lilith (1895). In addition, he wrote several works on Christian apologetics.

He mentored a fellow writer Lewis Carroll and his work influenced W. H. Auden, G. K. ChestertonJ. R. R. TolkienE. Nesbit, and Madeleine L'Engle.

C. S. Lewis regarded MacDonald as his "master" and wrote, "Picking up a copy of Phantastes one day at a train-station bookstall, I began to read. A few hours later", said Lewis, "I knew that I had crossed a great frontier." 

MacDonald's faith was one of the factors that lead Lewis to question atheism. 

The relationship between C.S. Lewis and MacDonald is the focus of a Facebook group called C.S. Lewis and his Master.

Chesterton cited The Princess and the Goblin as a book that had "made a difference to my whole existence."

Elizabeth Yates wrote of Sir Gibbie, "It moved me the way books did when, as a child, the great gates of literature began to open and first encounters with noble thoughts and utterances were unspeakably thrilling."

Even Mark Twain, who initially disliked MacDonald, became friends with him, and there is some evidence that Twain was influenced by him. 

Oswald Chambers wrote in his "Christian Disciplines" that "it is a striking indication of the trend and shallowness of the modern reading public that George MacDonald's books have been so neglected."

In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in MacDonald's work. There is another interesting Facebook group dedicated to discussing the works of MacDonald, C.S. Lewis, and G. K. Chesterton.

Michael R. Phillips has written an excellent book on George MacDonald: Scotland's Beloved Storyteller. I highly recommend it. Phillips makes extensive use of MacDonald's own writings as well as the accounts of Greville MacDonald, his son.

Phillips also wrote George MacDonlad’s Transformational Theology of the  Christian Faith. It is a compilation of the published sermons of George MacDonald, some complete and presented in both original and edited formats, others condensed to highlight essential themes. The selections are introduced and briefly placed in their theological and historical context Michael Phillips. This 400 page volume is a thorough and significant presentation of the theology and thought of this 19th century Scotsman and his place in Christian theological history.

Alice C. Linsley
Writer and Independent Researcher (meaning I'm poor! :)

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